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Student essayists review benefits of Holocaust education in annual B’nai B’rith contest

Student winners of the 2020 B’nai B’rith Capital Area Holocaust Essay Contest were honored at a June 3 zoom award ceremony.

Three winning high school and three winning middle school students read their essays and were awarded with cash prizes totaling $1000. Each student also was awarded certificates of achievement from B’nai B’rith, New York State Assembly Member Phil Steck, and U. S. House Member Paul Tonko. 

The award ceremony was led by Holocaust Essay Contest Chairperson Dr. Robert Michaels. Steck served as keynote speaker.

Essay contest participants wrote on:

Only 11 states currently require Holocaust education. Should all states require it to improve students’ appreciation of our ethnic and cultural diversity? What lessons of the Holocaust do you think might increase understanding and reduce intolerance? 

The Jewish World presents the essays of the two first prizewinners.

Patrick Manella

By PATRICK MANELLA
High School First Prize Essay

Loudonville Christian School
Sponsoring Teacher: Michelle Nietfeld

The Holocaust is something that I have been gradually learning about as I have progressed through my schooling. I can’t say that I’ve truly had Holocaust education, but I’ve learned bits and pieces over the years. Looking back, I wish I had been taught more about what was such a traumatic series of events. Seeing that only eleven states require Holocaust education blows my mind because what happened throughout those thirteen years should definitely be looked back upon.

There are numerous reasons why there should be Holocaust education in many more, if not all of our United States. The fact that the average American doesn’t recall, or hasn’t even learned basic facts about the Holocaust shows that a change needs to be made. (Anti-Defamation League) I myself have witnessed jokes made about the Holocaust, so I can believe what I read about kids taking photos doing Nazi salutes. Kids that make these jokes definitely haven’t learned in-depth about the Holocaust because if they did, they wouldn’t say or do these things. If there isn’t a law, then it is completely up to the school and the teachers whether or not they teach in detail about the Holocaust. A question I would have would be what the reasoning is behind not teaching about the Holocaust. The U.S. Department of Education has tons of free resources available to teachers so that they can teach about this time period. (Anti-Defamation League) The department did this so that the teachers wouldn’t have to struggle when teaching about the Holocaust. If only these resources were used by more of our country.

The most recent state to undergo a law surrounding the teaching of the Holocaust would be Oregon. Every public school in that state is now required to teach all about the Holocaust. (The Pew Charitable Trusts) One reason that it may be hard for people to learn, or take the Holocaust seriously is that it is very hard to relate to. Survey after survey shows that the knowledge of the Holocaust is slowly decreasing as fewer and fewer survivors remain with us on earth. Just talking to a survivor for a few minutes can help a lot when it comes to understanding the Holocaust and what went on.

Adverting future Holocausts is of the utmost importance when we are talking about this subject. Even though most of us weren’t alive during the time of the Holocaust, there are a few lessons that we can take away into our own lives, as well as prevent future Holocausts. The two lessons that I believe are very powerful and that we can take away from the Holocaust would be to appreciate the simple things in life, as well as to never give up. Men, Women, and Children uring the time of the Holocaust have very little supplies and lived off close to nothing. What a difference it is nowadays where they can appreciate the little things such as family, being healthy, friends, and food. (Giberovitch) Sometimes in our lives, we can take a lot of things for granted. Our financial situations, the selections of food we have for dinner each night, or even that we have a bed to sleep in. This is one lesson that I think we can take away from such a terrible time. Never giving up is also a great lesson to learn from this time. The people in the Holocaust were going through pretty tough times and the survivors can tell you, that it was their perseverance that got them through the rough times. (Giberovitch) Their value of life was too great to just “give up”.

As of right now, only eleven states require their public school to teach about the Holocaust. With so many free resources being given out I believe that every state should by law need to teach about the Holocaust. There aren’t many survivors left, so our generation needs to take in this crucial information so it can continue to be passed down. If we don’t learn about it, there will come a time where it will almost become, irrelevant, and we don’t want that happening due to all the lessons that we can take away from such an event. We as individuals can take a lot from the Holocaust, so if we learn about it now, we can pass these lessons on to the generations after us.

WORKS CITED:

Pew Charitable Trusts.  As Hate Incidents Rise, States Require Teaching the Holocaust. www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2019/07/15/

iiiiiiiiiias-hate-incidents-rise-states-require-teaching-the-holocaust. Accessed 5 March 2020;

Anti-Defamation League.  Why We Need Legislation to Ensure the Holocaust Is Taught in Schools, www.adl.org/blog/why-we-need-legislation-to-ensure-the-holocaust- iiis-taught-in-schools. 21 February 2019;

Giberovitch, Myra; et al. Fifteen Life Lessons We Can Learn From Holocaust Survivors.iiiiYOUAREUNLTD, www.youareunltd.com/2019/05/29/15-life-lessons-we-can-learn-from-holocaust-survivors/, 29 May 2019.

Grace Nowalk

By GRACE NOWALK
Middle School First Prize Essay

Canajoharie Middle School
Sponsoring Teacher: Lori Schaffer

The Holocaust was a terrible event in history. Millions of lives were lost due to hatred and discrimination. It was a very unfair and horrible experience for not only Jewish people, but also for people like Christians that Adolf Hitler did not agree with. Adolf Hitler ordered the people he didn’t like, to die. This was a very big event in history. It is very important that kids are being taught about this.

Only 11 states in America require Holocaust education. That is not a lot of states that should be teaching children this important piece of history. The Holocaust can teach children to aprieciate diversity and learn about other cultures. It can open up children’s minds and help them understand that we need to accept all cultures. Children are in charge of the future, just like how adults are right now. They are going to grow up and shape America. So, as they are learning while they’re young, we must teach them about what happened during the Holocaust. The Holocaust is just as important as any other topic that would be taught in history. Teaching children about this could potentially stop any situation like it from happening again, since they are going to be future leaders.

It is important that children know and understand what happened and what people go through. This can help children to understand that discrimination is wrong and that people in our world today still deal with hatred and unfairness. We can teach children about how much power Hitler got in so little time. Hitler got millions of followers to help him carry out his plan of pure evil. People need to know that power is a scary thing and that they should not have that much hatred. Teaching children about the Holocaust can help them form opinions on things in history and things that are going to happen in their future lives. It’s important that they know how the world works and how it used to work. We can teach them about the survivors and show them that they fought so hard to still be alive and they are strong. Jews were taken away from their families and watched their loved ones die right in front of them. It is truly heartbroken what they had to go through, and people need to see and understand that. We cannot let all those people’s stories wash away just because it happened in the past. We need to give them the respect they deserved before, now, by requiring teaching of it in all schools.

The millions of people that were lost deserve everyone’s respect now, and in the future. It is not fair to them that not everyone needs to learn about it. The Holocaust was a horrible, and painful event that we can now learn many things from. I truly hope that all the states across the world will require the teaching of the Holocaust in every classroom. Children need to learn about it and we can teach them to always have compassion and love for others, no matter what religion they are or what they look like. It is now our time to pay respect to the many people that we lost.

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